The Importance of the Chorus in Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex"

Essay by melimeloCollege, UndergraduateB, March 2007

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"Oedipus Rex", written by Sophocles takes place in the city of Thebes. The chorus within the play represents, for the most part, the people of Thebes, giving them a significant role in the play. There are several specific purposes for which the chorus is utilized. These include providing the audience with background information and summaries of recent events, allowing for scene changes, entrances and exits and indicating the passage of time. They ask questions, give opinions, set the tone and provide foreshadowing. Furthermore, the chorus is able to influence the way the audience feels about the characters and their development, in particular, Oedipus.

In the beginning of the play, the chorus believes that Oedipus will do his best to fix all of the problems in their city, turning to him in times of need. As the plot progresses, the opinions towards Oedipus gradually change. The chorus become uncertain as to what to think of Oedipus after hearing the accusations that he killed King Laïos.

After several unsuccessful attempts at trying to disprove Oedipus as the murderer, the chorus has no choice but to accept his fate. No longer being able to go to Oedipus for answers, the chorus mourns Oedipus and his losses. They still recognize however, despite his bad fortune, all he has done for their city in their time of need.

The chorus first enters the scene following the prologue. They arrive on stage full of questions and fear. After Oedipus addresses the people, the chorus provides further information of the terror the plague has brought. Praying, the chorus demonstrates that the gods are heavily relied on by the people of Thebes in times of need. The chorus then cry out in fright, “The plague burns on, it is pitiless, / Though pallid children laden with...